Maddie was glad to get out of the Vegas sun as they stepped into the cold interior of the small building to the north of the Bellagio. From the outside, it looked like a simple maintenance building. The door opened to a room where old plastic chairs sat against the white paint. An abandoned grey desk with a beat up swivel chair sat near the single door in the opposite wall.
Sam remained sullen and silent.
"That's quite the shiner." Maddie grinned at Sam.
He scowled at her and walked to the door, opening it toward him. A stainless steel elevator faced them. Sam pushed the single button.
"Your fault," he growled. "Agnes and I were doing fine until you piped up." The elevator opened and Sam motioned for Maddie to enter, following her. He reached over and pressed the single button on the elevator panel.
"So you think. While you were taking your little nap on the floor Agnes and I had a nice chat. I let her know what you've been up to." Maddie looked around at the stainless box, noting the plastic panel in the corner that concealed a camera. She furtively tested the handcuffs as the elevator doors opened on the new floor.
Sam touched his bruised eye. "Well, I have to say my girl has quite the punch," he said proudly. He glared at her. "I wish I'd shot you in the desert."
Maddie walked down the hallway, noting the pristine white concrete walls and reinforced doors on either side. "If I don't get the antidote to Jed in time, you'll wish you shot me." Her voice was low and intense. A shiver went down Sam's spine in spite of himself.
"Jed will be fine. He'll shake it off." Sam cleared his throat. "There isn't an antidote for the poison."
Maddie stopped walking, staring at Sam. "You played me? You lied to me?"
Sam shrugged again, glancing away from her. "Well, that shouldn't surprise you." He looked up and glared back at her. "And you're the one to talk! What's with the derringer trick?"
Maddie couldn't help grinning. "Yeah, that was a good one." Her face sobered. "But make no mistake, Sam. If Jed doesn't survive that poison, I'll hunt you to the ends of the Earth. Nothing will stop me from finding you and killing you." She snarled at him. "And it won't be slow dying either."
Sam growled back at her. "Yeah, if you ever get out of here. It's the doorway at the end." He pointed at a solid-looking metal door at the end of the hall, the one with a doorknob instead of an electronic key slot.
"So what are these other doors?" Maddie indicated the side doors as she moved forward.
Sam shrugged. "Holding cells, mostly. Empty right now, I think, but you never know. This whole place gives me the creeps."
"We can agree on that, Sam," Maddie said.
Sam reached for the doorknob, pausing. He looked at Maddie. "Whatever you do, don't stare. The Doc is real touchy about people staring."
Sam turned the knob and moved aside for Maddie to enter. She walked into the tiny room, dominated by another grey military desk, this one covered with papers and two computer monitors. Maddie heard the whine of a computer hard disk. A short and very fat man, perhaps in his late twenties, sat behind the desk, typing on a keyboard one finger at a time.
"Just a minute," he muttered, "my operating system is acting up again."
His white lab coat was dotted with an orange powder. The green t-shirt he wore had a guitar and drums on it, with the name of an obscure band Maddie never heard of. His white skin glistened under the fluorescent light as he typed, his thick glasses reflecting the screen.
Maddie waited a second, trying not to stare. "You don't look like what I imagined, Doctor."
Sam snickered, and the fat man hit the enter key with a flair and stood up. "Oh," he said, his eyes behind the thick glasses traveling from Maddie's feet to her head, pausing appropriately for an adolescent male. "I'm not Doctor Davenfeld." He tried to puff his chest out but the fat jiggled. "I'm Gary, the Doctor's main assistant. His hands, to be more precise."
Sam interrupted, irritated. "I think the Doctor is expecting me, Gary."
"He's expecting you." He pointed at Sam, his face grim. "But he isn't expecting her." He pointed at Maddie. "That's not who you're supposed to bring, Sam."
"So you're not the Doctor." Maddie's voice was quiet.
Gary's face reddened. "I see you staring at me," he accused, scowling at Maddie. "Just because I have a glandular condition doesn't make me a freak."
"I wasn't staring, Gary. My little sister had the same problem, so I understand the pain you have to endure from people who judge you by your looks." She inclined her head toward Sam.
Gary face brightened. He self-consciously wiped his palm on the back of his crumpled cargo shorts, holding it out for Maddie to shake. "I'm Gary. I'm the Doctor's assistant. I help him with his experiments."
Maddie reached forward with her manacled hands. Shaking Gary's hand was like holding a bag full of warm putty. "I'm Maddie, and I don't want to be one of his experiments."
Gary dropped his fat hands to his side. "Oh, you won't be. I'm afraid those experiments failed, so the Doctor isn't interested in more women vampires." He raised his eyebrows. "You are a vampire like the others, right?"
Maddie nodded then addressed Sam, her eyebrows knit together. "So, if the Doctor doesn't want to see me, I guess I should be going." She held her hands out, handcuffs raised.
"Not a chance. He'll still want to see you, I'm sure." Sam ignored her hands.
"No, no he doesn't." Gary shook his head, his face apologetic. "When you sent word you were coming he said some bad things. He said she's only another, uhm, woman… well, he didn't use that word…" Gary's face reddened as he glanced at Maddie. "And he doesn't care that you brought her here. He wants the big guy. He wants her…" he pointed at Maddie, then realized his forefinger was orange and wiped it on his shorts. "He wants her put in the same building as the other ones."
"Oh, c'mon, Gary. She's not like the others…" Sam gestured with his hands.
Gary interrupted. "To Dr. Davenfeld she is. Like I said, he's not interested in that research any longer." He lowered his voice, whispering to Sam. "It was a dead end. He's pretty angry about it, too. I wouldn't mention it if you see him."
"Well, at least let me talk to him and explain…" Sam started to push to the inner door, but Gary stepped in front of him, blocking him.
"No, that won't work. Dr. Davenfeld was very specific. He doesn't want to see you until you have the big guy – uhm, March."
Sam sighed. "August. It's August, Gary."
Gary's eyebrows raised and his eyes widened. "Really? No, that's not right because it's getting cooler outside…"
"The big guy's name is August!" Sam shouted. Maddie could hear his teeth grinding and a low growl starting in his throat. A long moment passed and Sam took a deep breath. "Okay, the Doc will want to know that I found the Indian that helped free August in the first place."
Gary shuffled his feet, looking down at the floor. He looked up at Sam. "Wait here. I'll be right back."
Gary stepped through the door. It slammed closed behind him.
Sam sat on the edge of the desk, arms crossed, his face like a thundercloud. He tapped his foot and bit his lower lip.
Maddie leaned against the wall, her hands in front of her. She watched Sam, saying nothing.
The door swung open and Gary stepped back into the room, pushing his thick glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. He looked at Sam. "Dr. Davenfeld isn't interested in the Indian, either. Not anymore. He says bring him the big guy." He shrugged. "Sorry, Sam."
"Fine! I'll go make arrangements to get August." He pushed his right forefinger into Gary's flabby chest. "The big guy. And then I'll bring him here, so be ready."
Sam turned to leave. Gary's voice cracked as he added "Uh, Sam! You better make it soon. He's having a bad couple weeks and now you're sort of the current…"
Sam waved his hands in the air. "The current what? Target of opportunity?" He opened the door and pushed Maddie back into the hallway. "I should never have come back," he muttered, closing the door behind him.
As they walked back to the elevator, Maddie looked at Sam and smiled sweetly. "Not going according to plan, is it?"
"Shut up," growled Sam.
Maddie pointed back toward the closed door. "So what's with Gary? He doesn't seem too bright."
Sam shrugged. "The Doctor needs help doing experiments and Gary seems perfect for the job. I think the Doc keeps him around because Gary has absolutely no imagination and isn't a threat to him at all. And even if he isn't creative, Gary has the most amazing memory…" Sam stopped talking and nearly stopped walking, his mind suddenly elsewhere.
"Well, Gary is the fattest man I've seen in years. I didn't even know there were any fat people left in our post-apocalyptic world." Maddie paused. "That's why you didn't want me to stare?" she asked curiously."His condition?"
Sam snorted. "Are you kidding me? Do you know how much junk food was in Vegas when the Z virus hit? I think Gary found it all and squirreled it away. He has his own warehouse full of the stuff. Rumor has it he also has a refrigerated warehouse full of frozen pizzas and ice cream." He shook his head. "No, I didn't want you to stare at Dr. Doctor. He hates that."
"Why? Is he fat, too?"
Sam said nothing for a moment. "Something like that. If you ever meet him, don't stare."
Maddie entered the small elevator. "So that orange powder on Gary's coat?"
"Some sort of cheese puffs, I'm sure. Those things last forever." The elevator moved smoothly upward. "What was that about your sister?"
"A lie. She was as thin as a rail. Died in the first month." Maddie paused, looking at Sam. "Why don't you release me, Sam? It's obvious your Doctor isn't going to let you go. He's more likely to kill you." The elevator door opened and they got out, the dusty, empty steel desk looking lonely in the small room.
Sam sat on the edge of the desk, looking at Maddie. "I could. Maybe I should take Agnes and go elsewhere." His eyes lost their focus for a moment. "We might be able to pull it off, even though the Doctor keeps us under observation." Sam shook his head. "It doesn't matter, now, Maddie. I'm pretty sure August is coming to get you. Once I deliver him, the Doc will give me what I want and let us leave. And if he doesn't, he'll still be distracted by August, so we'll have a better chance of escaping this town." For a moment, Sam's face looked sad. "I used to love this town, and I had a real good thing going for a while."
Maddie sighed. "Too bad, Sam. I think this will end badly for you."
Sam's gaze hardened. "Come on. It's time for you to meet the mothers of Tomás's children." He opened the outer door, and the blazing sun blinded them for a moment. "Then I'm rid of you, and glad of it."